PT: In May, I had a hunch.

If Dr. Henry approved, this would be a great summer to take a road trip – a great circle through the southern Okanagan.  And I probably wouldn’t be alone as other Lower Mainlanders came to the same conclusion.  So I booked out two weeks of accommodation and restaurants.

I figured, in the year of the virus, in my final decades, it was time for a retracing of steps.

My memories of boyhood summers involve cherries, warm lake water, bunchgrass and ponderosa pine, and the kind of landscapes they make jigsaw puzzles out of.

But those memories of the Okanagan in August were only possible because, beginning in the mid-Sixties, Premier WAC Bennett willed the BC Ferries into being and Highways Minister Phil Gaglardi paved the roads to create the demand.  My family was part of that demand, when my father could now drive us from Victoria to Skaha Lake in a single day.  From rain forest to desert.  Over mountain passes in a new Pontiac.  Tent trailor attached.

Now I’d return to those places, and compare memory from the mid-20th century with the valley in the 21st – taking an urbanist perspective to the small towns, the tourist beaches, the vineyards and orchards, the retirement suburbs, and the emerging metropolis of the mid-Okanagan.  Then on to Revelstoke, Nelson and the loop back home.

I’ll be photographing and posting along the way.  For the next two weeks, follow me @pricetags on Instagram.

And send me suggestions, observations and worthy detours in the Comments.



    1. My soul is just fine right here. Too much of the “open road” is billboards, gas stations, parking lots and malls, sad dumpy towns and sprawl where once was nature or at least pastoral landscapes of orchards and vineyards – the consequence of people not clustering in compact walkable, sustainable neighbourhoods.

  1. One of the world’s great road trips, you will have a great time. “Sorry” Phil Gagliardi’s gift to the people of B.C. is our highway system. The Kootenays are a special part of the province, Nelson has a great stock of older houses. Sadly the ashram on Kootenay Lake is closed for the year, it’s a great place for a visit. If you have time, the side trip to Crawford Bay is a great journey and destination. Pick up a new broom, clean up Vancouver.

  2. First off, the Hope-Princeton may be longer, but has so much more charm than the soullessness that is the Coquihalla.

    I actually dread returning to my home town of Kelowna – which will always in my mind be superior to Vernon or Penticton.

    When I grew up there in the late sixties and early seventies it was still primarily an agricultural region, with fruit being the number one industry. Tourism really did come second. Since then so many of the farms and orchards have been bulldozed to build an endless string of big-box stores and fast food restaurants. The downtown is a shadow of what it once was, and as seems to be the way all over this province, there is little or no sense of the history of the community.

    As a reference point, the first part of Orchard Park, the big mall on Highway 97, was built at the very edge of town, on land that used to be my father’s used car lot. My first job was further up the road at the Kelowna Drive in theatre. I’m not given to nostalgia at all, but this is a town that truly lost its way and sold everything in the pursuit of the almighty (tourist) dollar.

    I’ve driven across both the US and Canada, and it really strikes me that in many places they have managed to hang on to a genuine sense of place and community, and to push back against the encroaching commercial develop that has steamrollered so many BC towns. If your municipal council invests their entire future in the Costcos and McDonalds and WalMarts there is no chance that local businesses will survive and flourish. I don’t know that these mega-corporations can be stopped entirely, but surely we can slow them down and constrain them.

    1. Your’re not describing a place that is superior to anything. To me Kelowna and Nanaimo are the worst disaster zones in the province – comparable to the devastating aftermath of cities after decades of civil war. I refuse to spend a penny in either one. Penticton and Vernon are not great either, but they are superior.

  3. Check out the small, often forgotten little town of Okanagan Falls, at the south end of Skaha Lake. It’s an unincorporated town administered by the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen. The town is clustered around a compact lakeshore that is exceptionally is beautiful. Lance Berelowitz, Franck Ducote and I did a plan for their little downtown for the RDOS back about six or seven years ago. With the politics of regional district boards , it went nowhere.

  4. Hi Gord, here is my Daily Scot Kelowna mini-urbanist tour:

    1.) Checkout the lovely neighbourhood node centred on Lakeshore Road and Collett Road (Minus the horrible traffic roundabout) featuring an organic market, church and the incorporation of commercial space with the historic Surtees’ property. The sites lovingly restored structures feature Barn Owl Brewery and a period cottage set amongst Pine trees.

    2.) Hit up BNA Brewing downtown. Located in a cavernous historic Tobacco warehouse, the main floor space has a cozy hunting lodge feel while upstairs features a mini bowling alley and airstream trailer serving drinks. Its my favourite watering hole in the province, hands down.

    3.) Take note of the utility cabinets through the core covered in historic Beautiful British Columbia Magazine covers from the 60s highlighting the fruit industry. A great touch reinforcing sense of place. Also check out the Separated Bike lanes popping up.

    4.) Downtown is evolving nicely, lots of infill and Bernard Street is lively. Check out the laneway off of the end of Bernard near Abbott, its animated and programmed. The restored Cannery building housing the BC Orchard Industry Museum is interesting and there is a great space designed in its rear courtyard.

    5.) Walk along the Abbott Street greenway from Hwy 97 South to Royal Street to experience heritage homes, historic lakefront mansions and a separated bikeway.

    6.) The South Pandosy neighbourhood or SoPa is a good scale with a range of coffee shops and infill. Walk off it to explore the side streets West Ave and the commercial infill bounded by Raymer, Osprey and Tutt Streets.

    Have Fun!!
    Cheers Scot

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